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Cranmer's Ambiguous Legacy

The observations of Diarmaid MacCulloch in this article are consistent with the findings of two books I've read by scholars of the English Reformation, Straightening the Altars: The Ecclesiastical Vision and Pastoral Achievements of the Progressive Bishops Under Elizabeth I, 1559-1579 (Scott Wenig, with whom I attended seminary in the early 1980s) and Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism c. 1590-1640 (Nicholas Tyacke).  All three authors paint a picture of an English Reformation not fully realized (meaning not fully realized as the Reformers envisioned it, not as the Puritans did).   Thus, the English Reformation is one that was short-circuited by various political, theological, ecclesiastical and ideological forces, which largely explains Anglicanism's "identity" problem today.  MacCulloch speculates about what may very well have happened without the early interventions (and not all of them would have been desirable in my estimation):

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer died at the stake in 1556, a martyr for the English Reformation; but did he die a martyr for the Church of England or for Anglicanism? If we examine Cranmer's career after he parted company in the early 1530s with the Catholicism of his first forty years, we find a man of international perspective, who sought to move England into the path of the wider European Reformation: in particular towards the Reformations to be found in the churches of south Germany and Switzerland. After Cranmer's death, most of these churches would be labelled 'Calvinist' or 'Reformed'. He would not have recognised these descriptions, but if he had lived, it is very likely that he would have done his best to take the English church in the same direction. . . .

Archbishop Cranmer, living to his allotted three-score years and ten or beyond, could produce a third version of his two earlier Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, in the light of friendly criticism from continental reformers whom he respected, like Peter Martyr, Johann Heinrich Bullinger and Calvin. He would be succeeded as archbishop by Nicholas Ridley or Robert Holgate, with energetic younger. reformers like Edmund Grindal ready to make their mark and pick up good ideas from the best reformed churches of Europe. The Scots immigrant John Knox, mellowed by an increasingly successful career in the Church of England, would be appointed Bishop of Newcastle, benevolently taking no notice of the advanced congregations in his diocese who received communion sitting; this was a practice in any case increasingly common throughout Jane's Church, despite Cranmer's grumbles. Cranmer's cherished reform of the old popish canon law would be achieved; the primer and catechism published at the very end of Edward's reign in 1553 would become the standards; the Forty-two Articles would have been unmodified by Elizabethan hesitations about relegating the significance of the sacrament of Holy Communion to that merely of a symbolic repetition.

Out in the parishes, metrical psalms in the style of Geneva would quickly have spread: these were the best secret weapon of the English Reformation, making its public worship and private devotional practice genuinely popular throughout increasing areas of the kingdom. This congregational music would also take over in the cathedrals, now devoid of choirs or polyphony, and with their organs (where they survived) used mainly for entertainment in the Dutch fashion. The conservative nobility would continue the sullen public compliance with religious change which they had shown under Edward VI, their private celebration of ceremonial worship tolerated as eccentricity, like the Lady Elizabeth's patronage of choral music in her own chapel.

The traditionalist higher clergy would gradually die off in senior church offices and the universities, with no possibility of like-minded replacement: since the universities produced no major haemorrhage of exiles in the 1560s, the Jesuits and other religious orders would find it difficult to recruit potential clergy to train for their attempt to treat Jane's England as a mission field. England would have become the most powerful political player in the Reformed camp, with Cranmer a cordial if geographically distant partner with John Calvin. It is powerfully symbolic that it was Cranmer's son-in-law Thomas Norton who translated Calvin's Institutes into English, and Cranmer's veteran printer Reyner Wolfe who published it. With a Cranmer-Calvin axis, the profile of Reformed religion across the whole Continent would have been changed, and with the help and encouragement of Bishop Knox, the Reformation in Scotland might have followed a close path to the Reformed Church of England.

That is the history that never happened. . . .

Today Anglicanism makes much of its position as a 'middle way' (via media) between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Standing as he did in the developing Reformed tradition of Europe in the 1550s, Cranmer's conception of a 'middle way' in religion was different. The middle ground which he sought was the same as Bucer's: an agreement between Wittenberg and Zurich which would provide a united vision of Christian doctrine against the counterfeit being refurbished at the Council of Trent. For him, Catholicism was to be found in the scatterered churches of the Reformation, and. it was his aim to show forth their unity to prove their Catholicity.


Leithart: Too Catholic to Be Catholic


My Protestantism, my reformed catholicity, isn’t at all in conflict with that passion for church unity.  There is no tension at all.  On the contrary, it’sbecause I am so passionate to see the church reunited that I, not grudgingly but cheerfully, stay where I am.  My summary reason for staying put is simple: I’m too catholic to become Catholic or Orthodox.

I agree with the standard Protestant objections to Catholicism and Orthodoxy: Certain Catholic teachings and practices obscure the free grace of God in Jesus Christ; prayers through Mary and the saints are not encouraged or permitted by Scripture, and they distract from the one Mediator, Jesus; I do not accept the Papal claims of Vatican I; I believe iconodules violate the second commandment by engaging in liturgical idolatry; venerating the Host is also liturgical idolatry; in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, tradition muzzles the word of God.  I’m encouraged by many of the developments in Catholicism before and since Vatican II, but Vatican II created issues of its own (cf. the treatment of Islam in Lumen Gentium).

I agree with those objections, but those are not the primary driving reasons that keep me Protestant.  I have strong objections to some brands of Protestantism, after all.  My Protestantism – better, reformed catholicity – is not fundamentally anti-.  It’s pro-, pro-church, pro-ecumenism, pro-unity, pro-One Body of the One Lord.  It’s not that I’m too anti-Catholic to be Catholic.  I’m too catholic to be Catholic.

Here’s the question I would ask to any Protestant considering a move: What are you saying about your past Christian experience by moving to Rome or Constantinople?  Are you willing to start going to a Eucharistic table where your Protestant friends are no longer welcome?  How is that different from Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles?  Are you willing to say that every faithful saint you have known is living a sub-Christian existence because they are not in churches that claim apostolic succession, no matter how fruitful their lives have been in faith, hope, and love?  For myself, I would have to agree that my ordination is invalid, and that I have never presided over an actual Eucharist.  To become Catholic, I would have to begin regarding my Protestant brothers as ambiguously situated “separated brothers,” rather than full brothers in the divine Brother, Jesus.  To become Orthodox, I would likely have to go through the whole process of initiation again, as if I were never baptized.  And what is that saying about all my Protestant brothers who have been “inadequately” baptized?  Why should I distance myself from other Christians like that?  I’m too catholic to do that.


The Side of American Orthodoxy that Orthodox are Loath to Admit

Blog article from the author of Turning to tradition: Intra-Christian converts and the making of an American Orthodox Church.  Fr. Oliver has approached me to be a source for an article he plans to write on converts to Orthodoxy who leave the Orthodox Church.  His blog article here also speaks to that phenomenon, though it is chiefly concerned with Greek Americans' widespread abandonment of the Greek Orthodox Church.  Some highlights:

A recent Pappas Post article has highlight that 90% of people in America with Greek heritage are no longer Greek Orthodox.  It has been making rounds amongst Orthodox and seems to be stirring up some amount of surprise.  Frankly, I’m not so sure it should surprise us.  It may surprise us because in many Greek parishes Greek heritage is emphasized.  It may also surprise us because Orthodox literature since the 1980s has tended to overemphasize (in some cases simply exaggerate) the movement of converts entering into American Orthodoxy.  Converts have been a significant movement within Orthodoxy.  Given my most recent book on this very topic, I would be the last person to deny that.  However, if one reads the introduction even in there, one will realize that Orthodoxy brings in about as many as it loses.  Our growth, to be blunt, seems statistically insignificant.  That there is growth may be a good thing, but we also need to be honest about the losses.  So, if we’ve done our research, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn of losses. . . .

If we Orthodox can set aside our triumphalism for a few moments, I think we’ll find that what is happening in such cases speaks to a truth.  I also think that we have before us the elephant in the room.  People are leaving our church and are leaving in droves.  My prediction is that unless we get another large convert movement into Orthodoxy, we will find our gains in the 1980s and 1990s were simply the “one step forward” to our “two steps back.”  We even have a seminary of a particular jurisdiction with a monastery and I have been told that in terms of numbers and participants, it is a shadow of what it used to be (even while still functioning well enough over all for the moment).  This is not just a Greek problem.  It is an American Orthodox problem and the solution is not to make Orthodoxy an increasingly niche religion.

Trouble in paradise.   In a previous post, I noted Orthodox theologian Bradley Nassif's acknowledgment that there is a signficant exodus of converts to Orthodoxy from the Orthodox Church.   He speculates that as much as 50% or more have either reverted or gone on to something else.  It will be interesting to see if Herbel can confirm or correct Nassif's metrics in his forthcoming research.  As his new blog article suggests, however, the exodus of converts is only one worry, since there appears to be a rather significant exodus of cradles as well.


Recommending a Book on Baptism

Currently reading REC Bishop Ray Sutton's book Signed, Sealed and Delivered: A Study of Holy Baptism, and I have to say I agree with the reviewers here. It is scholarly yet eminently readable, and is serving to correct, clarify and solidify my thinking on baptism and its relation to ecclesiology and soteriology.  I highly recommend it, especially to those investigating or new to classical Anglicanism:


A Reader is "Gloriously Scared" About the Prospect of Becoming an Anglican

Received this email from a Baptist pastor.  Published here with his permission, identifying information removed:

Subject: Gloriously Scared
Message: Brother,

There is so much in your blog that resounds with me.  I am a pastor/teacher in a conservative Baptist church.  Week-in and week-out, I deliver a 50-60 minute exposition of Scripture.  Yet, I feel something is missing.  I feel that we have missed meeting with Christ together as a body.  What is missing?  After much prayer, it seems the Lord is revealing to me that it is sacrament and liturgy (two words that are anathema in the Baptist world). 

As I have been studying, researching, and praying over the past months, the more and more I become attracted to Anglicanism.  It is on paper and MP3/4 at this point, as all of the Anglican churches in my area . . . are very liberal.  This has robbed me of the ability to, on my next Sunday out of the pulpit, visit an Anglican church and drink in the beauty of Word, Sacrament, and Liturgy. 

The reason for the term "scared" in my subject line is that I feel as though I am on the verge of a major theological-tectonic shift, and when the ground quakes, the ground you are used to standing on, it does get a bit frightening.  Because of this, as I am sure you were, I want to be cautious, patient, and prayerful. 

I write this just so that you are encouraged.  God will always use His work in people's lives as a ministry to others.  He has used your story as a ministry to me.

Thank you, Pastor, for your word of encouragement.  I do indeed identify with what it feels like to be "gloriously scared" because faced with the prospect of conversion to a more historic and liturgical form of Christianity.  In fact, I was a Baptist seminarian when I first felt my own theological-tectonic shift taking place in this regard.  In my case, it caused a rift with my academic mentor, who was both a thoroughgoing Baptist and a dispensational premillennialist. 

I say keep on being cautious, patient, and prayerful.  That is key. And above all, please - please - keep rose-colored glasses off your face.  So many converts, myself included, failed to do this and ultimately ended up experiencing some degree of disillusionment when it became apparent that our new ecclesial home had its own set of dysfunctions.  You've alluded to liberal-left Anglicanism, which gleefully continues its fatal swirl around the drain of apostasy.  That is only one dysfunction of several in the Anglican world.  So, if you come to our fold, come with eyes wide open.  There are no grounds for triumphalism here.

That being said, I am happy as a clam in the Anglican Way.  A large part of that happiness stems from the fact that authentic Anglicanism (as opposed to revisionist Anglicanism) is unapologetically Evangelical.  Read the English Reformers, the Anglican formularies, Anglicanism's missiological history, the Evangelical Anglican movement of the 19th century, and modern Anglicans such as Packer, Stott and Beckwith, and you cannot come away with any other conclusion.  I assume that is important to you, and so I say that you will accordingly find in Anglicanism what you can't find in either Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, which is a lived commitment to the biblical Gospel of sola gratia, sola fide.  Yes, you will find Anglicans who have something else at their center, but as I've said, they are revisionists, not originalists.

You are not the only Baptist who feels that something very important is missing in your worship.  Perhaps you caught this article about a Baptist congregation in Virginia that has gone liturgical.  If you are ultimately not able to make peace with the practice of infant baptism, this might be an alternative for you to consider.  I'm not trying to talk you out of considering Anglicanism, mind you, only that I know how thorny the baptism issue is and that this might be a way for you to proceed while retaining an important Baptist distinctive.  If that turns out not to be an option for you, most Evangelical Anglicans find a covenantal understanding of baptism to harmonize well with the Reformed ordo(s) salutis, which accounts for the common phenomenon of conversion later in life that Baptists recognize as fundamental to the Evangelical life.

Allow me to recommend a couple of books.  I am required to read these as part of my preparation for ordination to the diaconate.  They are: Fr. Leander Hardings' In the Breaking of the Bread: A User's Guide to a Service of Holy Communion in the Anglican Tradition, and Simon Chan's Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshipping Community.   Interestingly, Chan is a theologian who belongs to the Assemblies of God but who has obviously come under the influence of Orthodox liturgical theologians.  The mix of Orthodox liturgical theology and Evangelicalism in Chan's work is one that I think will appeal to you.  Chan speaks to the necessity of Evangelicals having an ontology of the church, and it would appear that has become something of a vexing question to you, if the first paragraph of your email is any indication.

Anyway, may God richly bless you on your journey, wherever you end up.  If you end up an Anglican, you will have done well, and if you don't, you will also have done well, so long as you continue to lean on the bosom of our Lord.


Another Addition to the Blogroll


New To The Blogroll

The Evangelical Ascetic.  Discussed here previously.


8 Reasons To Be Anglican

From Convictional Anglican.  (H/T wyclif.)


"Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam. . . ."

"Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete. . . ."


Diocese of the Carolinas: Restoring Reformation Anglicanism

This is the stuff.

Reformation Anglicanism is Gospel-centered

Of the many things that could be said about the English Reformation, one aspect that is consistently overlooked is that it would not have been possible were it not for the experience of men and women receiving the good news of Jesus Christ in a personal and transformative way.  Take for example the experience of Thomas Bilney, who recounted his own conversion in the following words:

At the first reading (as I well remember), I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!):  ‘It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief principle (1 Tim 1.15).

This one sentence, through God’s instruction and inward working (which I did not then perceive), did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt, of my sins, and being almost in despair, that immediately I felt a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch ‘that my bruised bones leaped for joy’ (Psalm 51.8).

Through what would eventually become one of Cranmer’s famous “comfortable words,” Bilney learned that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and that meant that Christ Jesus came into the world to save men like him.  This good news, that Bilney found in the Scriptures is the Gospel, something that William Tyndale said “makes a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance, and leap for joy.”  The Gospel said Tyndale:

Is joyful tidings and, as some say, a good message declared by the apostles throughout all the world of Christ, the right David, who has fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and has overcome them. By this all men who were in bondage to sin, wounded with death and overcome by the devil are, without their own merit or deserving, loosed, justified, restored to life and saved. They are brought to liberty, and reconciled to the favor of God, and set at one with Him again.

The scriptures teach us of Christ alone reconciling sinners to God by grace alone and not by works, for God’s glory alone and received simply by faith alone.  Reformation Anglicans are passionate about the Gospel not only because the Reformers were, but because we believe the Gospel still heals bruised bones, still makes the sad and sorrowful leap for joy, and still gives victory over sin, death, and the devil reconciling the child of God to himself and leading God’s people in liberty.

Reformation Anglicanism is Catholic

A caricature of the Reformation Anglicans is that they ignore the patristic witness and the contributions of the undivided church in favor of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  Not only could this not be further from the truth but this is also a serious misreading of the English Reformation.  The English Reformers very much saw themselves in continuity with the patristic church.  This is why Cranmer begins many of his homilies with support from such early church theologians as Athanasius, Augustine, John Chrysostom and many others.  Cranmer’s implied point is that there is Patristic support for the theological points at the heart of the Reformation.  More explicitly, John Jewel argues that “God’s holy Gospel, the ancient bishops, and the primitive Church do make on our side.

The English Reformation did not believe it was charting a new course but rather recovering an old one.  The English Reformers believed that the Medieval church had lost its way and therefore needed to be re-formed.  Modern Reformation Anglicans see themselves, like their forbearers as reformed catholic Christians in continuity with the historic church and bearing the doctrine and substantial marks of early Christianity.

Reformation Anglicanism is Confessional

The Articles of Religion were passed by Parliament in 1563.  It is clear by the preface to the Articles that these were to serve as the measuring stick for English Protestant Orthodoxy or as we might say, Anglican Orthodoxy.  The preface reads as follows: 

Articuli, de quibus in synode Londinensi anno Domini, iuxta ecclesiae Anglicanae computationem, M.D.LXII. ad tollendam opinionum dissensionem, et firmandum in uera Religione consensum, inter Archiepiscopos Episcoposque utriusque Prouinciae, nec non etiam uniuersum Clerum convenit. Articles whereupon it was agreed by the Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces and the whole clergy, in Convocation held in London in the year of our Lord 1562, according to the counsel of the Church of England for the avoiding of diversities of opinion and for the establishment of consent regarding true religion.


As can be seen from the above, the Articles of Religion were meant to establish orthodoxy within English Protestantism.  Clergy in the Church of England, to demonstrate their orthodoxy subscribed to the Articles of Religion. . . .

Some may rightly ask “but what of the Book of Common Prayer?”  To which we respond:  the doctrine is the seed, the devotional (Prayer Book) and institutional life (Ordinal) is the flower.  The Book of Common Prayer is the fruit of the scripturally founded, Gospel-centered doctrine discovered in the Articles.  From here we note three things:

1)   That Reformation Anglicans are “confessional” does not imply they are not catholic.  Explicit in the Articles is an embrace of the early councils and creeds grounded not upon their institutional authority, but rather because “they may be proven by certain warrants of Holy Scripture” (Article VIII).  We note with pleasure that the Jerusalem Declaration of the GAFCON movement “upholds the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

2)   Reformation Anglicans judge authentic Anglicanism according to conformity to the historic confession of the Church of England.  Again, the Jerusalem Statement:  “We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.”

3)   Reformation Anglicans embrace the ordinal and historic prayer books of the settled church (1559, 1662) as authentically showing forth the fruit of the doctrine contained in the Articles.  Again, we stand in line with the Jerusalem Declaration which notes:  “We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.”. . . .

Reformation Anglicanism is not a slogan.  Rather it is a Christian tradition, indeed the most historic Christian tradition within Anglicanism.  As a tradition, it deserves to be studied, meditated upon, and prayed over.  In the Diocese of the Carolinas, the Ridley Institute aims to provide a Reformation Anglicanism Bibliography for all its Ordinands to complete and be prepared to be examined upon by the end of their theological training.  We would encourage all those interested in this movement to take the study of it seriously.

Reformation Anglicanism is not a historical fetish.  Rather, we see in the English Reformation and the 39 Articles of Religion a clear, vibrant, and costly articulation of the saving power of the Gospel as proclaimed by our Lord Jesus and set forth in the Holy Scriptures.  In this time of global Anglican turmoil, Reformation Anglicanism acts as an anchor rooting us within faithful, historic, Gospel-centered Christianity.  It is the Gospel-centrality that exalts the glory of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we cherish above all else.  Reformation Anglicanism is simply a gracious reminder that Anglicans who cherish such things do not need to look beyond their own tradition to be resourced for mission both now and in the future.

Enough of Anglo-Catholicism and "tertium quid" Anglicanism.  This is a clarion call to the only kind of "Anglican identity" that will mean anything in the long run.


Once Again, All You Overseas Spammers

You spam, I delete.  Takes me all of 10 seconds to undo your work.


Yes I Do



Black Watch.  Two Anglican priests you probably don't want to mess with.

I'm hearing more these days about guys packing heat in church, CCW licensees sitting near the back of the church so that they can assess threats more quickly, etc.  We live in dangerous times, and I believe it is incumbent on all male Christians to broach the question in their churches about how to prepare for an active shooter or some other kind of terrorist.  It's the St. George sort of thing to do.



Ash Wednesday

Collect for Ash Wednesday and Lent:

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness. may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Call to remembrance, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindness, which hath been ever of old. O remember not the sins and offences of my youth: but according to thy mercy think thou on me, O Lord, for thy goodness. (Psalm 25: 5-6)


As We Approach the Fast


BY Robert Herrick (1591-1647)

Is this a Fast, to keep
The larder lean?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?
Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?
Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg'd to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour?
No: 'tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
And meat
Unto the hungry soul.
It is to fast from strife
And old debate,
And hate;
To circumcise thy life.
To show a heart grief rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin;
And that's to keep thy Lent.


Iker: The Anglo-Catholic/Evangelical Divide

Read the text of this sermon at Virtue Online.

While I'm happy to see the rapprochement between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals of which Bishop Iker speaks, I think he only illustrates the difficulty when he essentially writes off the English Reformation in this piece.  What's more, by my lights Evangelical Anglicans are much more inclined to appreciate, and even own, the Church Fathers than Anglo-Catholics are the Reformers.   True, Evangelicals don't read the Fathers uncritically, but it seems Anglo-Catholics do not want to read the Reformers at all.  And that, dear readers, forces the question of how valuable this rapprochement will turn out to be in the long run.  As Roger du Barry comments there:

Bishop Iker, I commend your irenic spirit. However, the Anglican Church is catholic AND Reformed. Your depiction of a contrast between two kinds of faith as either catholic OR Reformed is not faithful to the English church's self-understanding of itself. Cranmer et al took some things from the fathers and discarded others, according to their having a sure and certain warrant of scripture. It retained the four points you mentioned without including apostolic succession in the historic episcopate, and at the same time kept the ancient Augustinian teaching on absolute predestination and God's total sovereignty, and made a special place for justification by faith alone.

As I have argued here at OJC, if the Anglo-Catholics cannot even make room as theologoumena for the Pauline-Augustinian doctrines of grace, then we Evangelicals can have no truck with them.


Quote of the Day

"You can have orthodoxy or you can have the Episcopal Church, but you can't have both." (Former Dean of Nashotah House, Robert S. Munday)

UPDATE:  At the suggestion of reader Mild Colonial Boy, Esq., I am providing a link to Munday's article from which the quote above was taken, If I had it to do all over again.  It is definitely worth the read.


New To The Blogroll


Anglican Twilight Zone


Mr. Jon Xavier Comments

Here: Classical Anglicanism, Anglo-Catholicism and "Free-Will" (or the Problem of Synergism).

The problems with the article are many. But let's go straight to the Fathers. Nothing is convoluted. Augustine was considered novel in West as well as East. One should also point out that it was Augustine, not the eastern Fathers, who was philosophically trained and so theologized accordingly. Moreover,and far more serious, Augustine's views were simply a Christianized form of the Manichean heresy he followed for years.  For, as anyone can see, Gnostic, not Orthodox Christians, were the first to teach predestination as Augustine did. And all of this was made more possible because he could not read the bible in the original languages - only in Latin. As for the idea that free-will and grace are incompatible, one only needs to read eastern Fathers as well as Arminius. In both cases, grace is the driving character to the extinct humans can take no credit. An analogy would be the lifeguard and the drowning swimmer. If the current is tough and the swimmer heavy, the lifeguard will have a hard time. So the drowning person allows himself to be drawn along and paddles when he can if he can. And of course, according to predestinarians, when he makes it to shore, the man must necessarily say, "Hey, I saved myself!" Consequently, everyone applauds him, even the lifeguard. Such would be ridiculous and no rational person would accept the scenario as logical. Nonetheless, predestinarians continue to accuse free will adherents of precisely such ludicrous claims. And nothing could be more misinformed biblically, theologically, or historically. Still, the predestinarian must justify his system as if the above were true. Something that cannot be done. And thus, he imagines everyone else is as Augustine's opponent - Pelagius. Whereas, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Though he doesn't say so, it would appear Mr. Xavier is Orthodox, something I discern from both the Orthodox "talking points" style of argumentation he uses and his reference to gnostics and Orthodox in the 7th sentence of the paragraph.  This blog has indeed come to the attention of a number of Orthodox folks, as attested not only by the number of critical comments from Orthodox lodged here but also by PMs I have received from disaffected Orthodox Christians who have written to express agreement with my assessments of Orthodoxy.   Mr. Xavier's comment is the latest such critical comment, and, as always, I unbury these comments in order to deal with them in fresh blog posts.  So, here we go:

The problems with the article are many. But let's go straight to the Fathers.

This isn't the first time an Orthodox critic has been long on assertion and short on specifics.  If the errors in the article are "many", it would be very helpful to know,specifically, what each and every one of those errors are.  When a critics makes such and assertion but quickly moves on to another subject, he leaves us with the distinct impression that he really doesn't know what he's talking about.  But OK:  let's go straight to the Fathers.

Nothing is convoluted.


Augustine was considered novel in West as well as East.

Not exactly.  It is true that some of his Western contemporaries had issues with his predestinarianism.  Some of these Augustine apparently won over and others he did not win over.  Other contemporaries were squarely in his camp from the get-go, and as we all know his "school" was to become extremely influential in the West.  As to why his views were controversial, the quote from McGrath in the article is sufficient to explain it: 

The history of the development of the Christian doctrine of justification lends support to such a suspicion. In particular, it can be shown that thwi major distortions were introduced into the corpus of traditional belief within the eastern church at a very early stage, and were subsequently transferred to the emerging western theological tradition. These are:

1. The introduction of the non-biblical, secular Stoic concept of autoexousia or liberum arbitrium in the articulation of the human response to the divine initiative in justification.

2. The implicit equation of tsedaqa, dikaiosune and iustitia, linked with the particular association of the Latin meritum noted earlier (p.15), inevitably suggested a correlation between human moral effort and justification within the western church.

As McGrath and other scholars have pointed out, it was the later Augustine's more exegetical and less philosophical approach to theology that brought authentic apostolic (mainly Pauline) theology to bear against this Hellenistic departure from the Gospel.  It wasn't Ausgustine's theology that was "novel", but rather the free will theology McGrath describes.  Augustine's thought was the necessary corrective to it.

One should also point out that it was Augustine, not the eastern Fathers, who was philosophically trained and so theologized accordingly.

Mr. Xavier might want to recheck his facts by reading some of the biographical materials regarding the ECF and the role that Neoplatonism played in their theologizing.  This idea that Augustine was purely a philosophical theologian and the ECF were not such is yet another inaccurate assertion from the Orthodox apologete's toolbox. (Re: my comment above about "talking points.")  But such an asserton won't stand a moment's scrutiny.

Moreover,and far more serious, Augustine's views were simply a Christianized form of the Manichean heresy he followed for years.

Yet another inaccurate assertion from aforesaid toolbox.

For, as anyone can see, Gnostic, not Orthodox Christians, were the first to teach predestination as Augustine did.

Actually, that was the apostles, not the gnostics. 

And all of this was made more possible because he could not read the bible in the original languages - only in Latin.

Yet another talking point.  I have dealt with that talking point in other blog articles here at OJC, if Mr. Xavier would simply spend the time and effort to read them.

As for the idea that free-will and grace are incompatible, one only needs to read eastern Fathers as well as Arminius.

Again, if Mr. Xavier would simply take the time to do a little research he would find that neither Salter nor I have argued that free-will and grace are incompatible.  In fact, we're compatibilists, not incompatibilists. So was St. Augustine.  See here, here and here, for example.

As for the remainder of Xavier's comment, well, it's obviously a false analogy, for reasons he'll see if he reads the three OJC articles linked in the paragraph above.  His analogy also begs the question:  it assumes synergism, when synergism is the very question.  To stay within Xavier's analogy and to counter it with the biblical doctrine, the drowning swimmer is not simply obese and tired, he is drowned and dead.

Of course, because Pelagianism was condemned at an ecumenical council, Orthodox can't be Pelagians, and I've made no claim that they are.  What I do claim, however, is that regardless of the lip service they give to prevenient grace, at the end of the day they face much the same problem that the Pelagian does.